Vanishing Point (Circle of Spies Novella) (5 page)

BOOK: Vanishing Point (Circle of Spies Novella)
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Marisa turned slightly as if she were following her directions. She gathered her frantic thoughts to figure out how to deal with this life or death situation.
 

A steely resolve took over, chasing away the fear. Courage soared. The brushes, lotions and small toys on the nightstand wouldn’t be of any use but then the standing lamp caught her eye.

The boy whimpered and that was all it took.
 

She dashed over and gripped the cold metal of the stand. She smashed it against the wall, knocking off the shade and breaking the bulb, then she faced her enemy and growled.

The woman pushed the boy aside, pointed the gun at Marisa and shot.
 

Pain sliced through her shoulder. As she fell back, more intense pain than anything she’d ever felt radiated down her arm.
 

Marisa reached for her shoulder. Her hand came back wet and sticky, covered in crimson. For a moment, she couldn’t do anything but stand there, shocked at the sight of blood and the smell coiling in the air, but all it took was the sound of the boy struggling to bring her back.
 

The woman pointed the gun at the boy. With a primal cry that even surprised Marisa, she lunged forward, driving the end of the lamp with jagged shards of glass into the woman’s back.
 

She yanked it out. As soon as the woman turned, Marisa whacked her across the head. She stumbled and Marisa whacked her again and again until she was knocked out.

When the woman lay still, Marisa dropped her weapon, her arms trembling.

The boy rushed and wrapped his arms around her. “You’re a super hero.”
 

She pried his arms off and lifted his chin, trying to hide her physical pain. “The danger isn’t over yet. Run. Go hide in the secret passageway.”
 

His face paled even more, then he took off running. Her stomach churned and a wave of nausea caused her to stumble toward the wall and the laundry chute. Okay, so she wasn’t a little boy having fun but what other choice did she have? Marisa thanked the corset as to why she was able to squeeze through the laundry chute.
 

Fighting dizziness, Marisa let go of the edge of the chute and shot toward the lower floors. Her stomach went into her throat and then suddenly she was surrounded by piles of clothes. She lurched from the huge basket and staggered through the basement room.
 

Tears formed. Jumbled phrases and words spilled from her mouth. A rush of warmth streamed, no gushed, down her leg. She sobbed as the sour smell reached her nostrils. She might have bumped into a maid and said something about the secret passageway but later she couldn’t quite remember.

A draft of cold air led her to the nearest door. She wobbled down the driveway to circle the house and find Will. After stumbling around, someone gripped her arm and led her down the drive. The door opened and she was pushed into the backseat. She curled into a ball and cried uncontrollably. Her body quivered.

***

Marisa woke in the same position. The limo sped down streets. At first, she didn’t know where she was and then the memories of the night rushed back. She shot straight up but pain racked her shoulder. She slumped back down, humiliated at the slight scent of half-dried urine.

Will didn’t say anything. Marisa closed her eyes, wishing to be home. With Stephen. And Savvy.

“Funny thing about tonight,” Will said. “Mr. Rottingham spoke of a Ms. DeWilflower, a beautiful seductress in an emerald dress who saved not only his life but the life of his son. He’s sent out a search for her to properly reward her.”
 

Marisa kept quiet. Edward Rottingham would never find his enchantress. But she’d take the compliment.
 

“I don’t know how you pulled that off, or how you knew about the boy. Obviously you knew more about this than you let on.”

Marisa bristled. “And obviously you lied about just poking around.”

“What?” Will asked with murder in his voice.

“That’s right. You hired thugs.”
 

He sighed. “Those thugs as you call them had nothing to do with me.”

Marisa fell quiet, not quite able to muster the strength needed to continue the fight.
 

Will filled the silence. “If you must know, those thugs are trained assassins. Obviously, Edward has more than one enemy.” He hesitated as if not wanting to say what came next. “My family is willing to offer you a deal. Work for me, completing small missions while we decide if you’re truly a threat or not, and your family will be safe.”

Marisa then closed her mind. She let the words roll off her. She’d think about that later.

***

Marisa’s so-called trip to visit an old high school friend took much longer than expected. Her friend was in grave distress, bordering on suicide, so Marisa had to stay a full three weeks. She sent emails daily, telling Stephen and Savvy how much she loved them and couldn’t wait to return home. They replied with questions but understood.

She suffered through Will’s brief appearances. She tried to convince him that her successful rescue was no more than maternal instinct. That she really had no clue about her family heritage of espionage. The blackness of his soul reflected in his eyes told her he didn’t believe a word.

The day finally came and she arrived home. She hugged her husband and daughter, fighting back the emotion strangling her throat.

That first night, she slipped into the bedroom, an old cd in her hands.

“Good to have you home,” Stephen said already in bed.
 

Marisa nodded, her heart in her throat at what she was about to do. Stephen would think her crazy.

“What took you so long to get up to bed?” He pouted. “Didn’t you miss me?”

Her throat welled again. “More than you’ll ever know.” She coughed while sliding the disc into their old player. “I’ve been with Savvy. It’s been way too long since I’ve just sat and talked with her.”

Stephen’s face softened. “Good for you.”
 

Marisa pushed Play. The first strains of music came out. Taking a deep breath, she turned and let her bathrobe fall to the floor, revealing the sexy lingerie she’d purchased. “Dance with me?”
 

Stephen tilted his head, questioning.

Oh my God, she knew this was a bad idea. She whipped around and fumbled with the keys to stop the music. It had been years since they’d danced. He must think she was nuts.

Arms clasped around her. His lips touched her ears. “Of course, I’ll dance with you.” Then he added, “If I remember how to.” He turned her around and rested his hands on her waist. Slowly, her hands moved seductively up his chest and around his neck. “You should go away more often.”

She laughed. He didn’t realize how close he was to the truth.
 

As they swayed to the music, comfortable in the silence, Marisa scolded herself. How could she ever have thought that Stephen couldn’t handle the truth? Or be able to help her. He always had a fresh way of looking at a situation. Of course, she should’ve told him right away, but she’d been so overwhelmed about keeping it secret, she didn’t think to. He’d understand.

“Stephen?”
 

“Hmm.” His chin rested on the top of her head.

“I have to tell you something.” Her voice shook ever so slightly.

“Anything.”
 

She took a deep breath. She could do this no matter how crazy she sounded.

“I wasn’t—”

The phone buzzed on her nightstand. She stiffened in Stephen’s arms.

He kissed her cheek. “It’s just a phone call. I’ll still be here.”

She trailed kisses up his neck. “Let’s ignore it.”

The phone buzzed again.

He placed her hands on his arms. “It might be your friend. Maybe you should answer it?”

“Oh, right.” That’s what she didn’t want. Her friend. She stumbled over to the bed and lifted the phone to her ear.

“Just a word of warning.” Will’s threatening voice seeped out of the phone like poison and into her soul.
 

She trembled but forced an answer. “I’m sorry. Savvy’s sleeping.”
 

“I suggest keeping our agreement to yourself. Your husband has nothing to do with this. In fact, the less he knows the better. As for your daughter? It’s not her time yet. So keep quiet…we’ll be watching.”

Then he hung up.

She placed the phone back and returned to her husband’s arms.
 

“For Savvy?” he asked.

She nodded, afraid that if she spoke she’d give herself away. How did Will know to call right then? Did he have the house bugged? Or was it just a coincidence? She laid her head on Stephen’s chest, listening to the beating of his heart. His warmth made her feel a little bit better but could never take away the icy chill that would probably stay with her.
 

Will was right. It was better to keep Stephen in the dark. The less he knew the better.

Her secret would have to stay secret.
 

Even though she was home and safe, she could never forget, not for one second, that a family of assassins was her mortal enemy. That she had to work for Will in exchange for her family’s safety. At some point, he would call again. For another mission. She had to comply because he was convinced she was much more than her cover of a middle-aged mom.
 

As Savvy would say, “Yeah right.”

 

Six

Stephen growled as his head popped out from under the covers, hair sticking out in all directions. “Ooh, I like it when you talk dirty.” And with that he pulled Marisa, back under the covers.

Marisa fought against the sheets in dire need of fresh air. “Saying I’m hungry is not talking dirty!” But her light tone of voice on the verge of laughter gave her away.

“It’s all a matter of interpretation.” Stephen laughed and nuzzled into her neck.
 

She giggled right back. “In that case what my words really meant were, let’s go out for breakfast.”
 

Stephen kissed her neck and teased. “We can make it brunch.”
 

Her stomach growled rather noisily.

“Alright, alright. Breakfast it is.” He threw back the sheets and slipped into his bathrobe. “I’ll just hop in the shower.”

Marisa sighed with contentment and sank back into her pillow. The last several months had truly been amazing. After returning from her first mission with Will and dancing with Stephen to Barry Manilow, something had changed. A spark relit. Anyhow, Stephen wasn’t complaining.

But still, every time the phone rang or someone knocked on the door or someone bumped her in public, she forced herself to remember Will’s words.
 

That while she worked for him her family was safe.
 

She’d often debated telling Stephen the whole crazy story, but every time she tried, fear stopped her.
 

The phone rang, startling her.

The fluttering in her stomach returned. She glanced at the cell on the nightstand. Finally after two more rings, she snaked out her arm and snatched up the phone. A bit breathless, she said, “Hello.”
 

“Ms. DeWilflower, be at the airport by ten o’clock. Pack for the weekend. I’ll meet you in Paris.” Then the bastard hung up.

“Will?” Marisa’s voice wavered at first. “Will?”
 

“Who’s Will?” Her husband popped out of the bathroom door, rubbing his head with a towel.

The lies slipped out easily. “Oh, well, you see, I met a new girlfriend a month ago at my karate class. Oh, that’s right. I signed up for a karate a few months ago.”
 

Stephen’s face registered his surprise at this tidbit of information. Marisa expected that, but many aspects of her life lately had been kept under wraps, the karate classes being one of them.
 

 
“Anyway, this really nice lady and I have become fast friends. Will is her…husband and he called to let me know that Susanna has…invited me away for a weekend of scrapbooking.” She stopped talking and took a deep breath.

“Marisa, darling, you don’t scrapbook.”
 

Marisa jumped from the covers and started stuffing clothes into a suitcase. “Well, you see, Susanna is really into it. Even runs her own business she does and she’s been trying to get me into it since the day we met over some karate chops. I’ve putting her off for weeks. She simply won’t take no for answer.”

“Marisa.” She continued to ramble on about Susanna until Stephen called her name louder. “Marisa!”

“Yes?” Could he see through the lies?

“Have a great weekend. I’ll wake Savvy and drag her along with me to breakfast. Prime Dad and daughter bonding. How can she resist bacon?” He threw on jeans and a T-shirt and left.

Marisa sank onto the bed, her fingers shaky and her mouth completely dry. If only she was going to a scrapbooking retreat. But Paris? She needed something to make her feel brave.
 

After peeking to make sure Stephen wasn’t coming back, she opened her top dresser drawer. She dug toward the back and pulled out a black lace, matching bra and panty set that she’d bought for Stephen but hadn’t had the guts to wear. This would make her feel like Beatrice DeWilflower.
 

And not Marisa Bent.

***

After a rather long flight during which Marisa fiddled with her reflective sunglasses that she’d purchased at the last minute from the airport gift shop, and in which she’d contemplated her sanity numerous times, she was a complete nervous wreck. How many middle-aged moms were sent on James Bond missions? This Will fellow was under the wrong impression that she knew what she was doing, that secretly she was some sort of spy.
 

The taxi ride didn’t help the state of her nervous system as the driver careened down the streets. The scenery blurred past but she was too exhausted to take it all in. Before she knew it, before she was possibly ready, Marisa stood in front of an apartment, suitcase in hand, a bit of her lace underwear poking out the side, trapped in her hurry to pack.

BOOK: Vanishing Point (Circle of Spies Novella)
8.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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